Everything for Political Gain

1 Comment

As I mentioned a few weeks ago, aside from the ethical questions raised by the U.S. Attorney scandal, a side effect has been a window into the way the Bush administration operates. What I wrote at the time:

This scandal has been emblematic of the entire Bush years. That’s why this is so important. The past two months (and actual oversight by a Democrat-controlled Congress) have given us a view into the inner workings of Bush Co., and shown the public and the media just how hard the administration will try to snooker them. We also know the lengths Republicans will go to advance their political agenda, including interference in a criminal investigation.

Well, today we’re looking a little deeper into that window. Via Kevin Drum is this L.A. Times Op-Ed by a former Justice Department civil rights lawyer:

The scandal unfolding around the firing of eight U.S. attorneys compels the conclusion that the Bush administration has rewarded loyalty over all else. A destructive pattern of partisan political actions at the Justice Department started long before this incident, however, as those of us who worked in its civil rights division can attest.

I spent more than 35 years in the department enforcing federal civil rights laws — particularly voting rights. Before leaving in 2005, I worked for attorneys general with dramatically different political philosophies — from John Mitchell to Ed Meese to Janet Reno. Regardless of the administration, the political appointees had respect for the experience and judgment of longtime civil servants.

Under the Bush administration, however, all that changed. Over the last six years, this Justice Department has ignored the advice of its staff and skewed aspects of law enforcement in ways that clearly were intended to influence the outcome of elections.

Igleasias is mentioned:

From 2001 to 2006, no voting discrimination cases were brought on behalf of African American or Native American voters. U.S. attorneys were told instead to give priority to voter fraud cases, which, when coupled with the strong support for voter ID laws, indicated an intent to depress voter turnout in minority and poor communities.

At least two of the recently fired U.S. attorneys, John McKay in Seattle and David C. Iglesias in New Mexico, were targeted largely because they refused to prosecute voting fraud cases that implicated Democrats or voters likely to vote for Democrats.

Jeez. How bad did it get?

This administration is also politicizing the career staff of the Justice Department. Outright hostility to career employees who disagreed with the political appointees was evident early on. Seven career managers were removed in the civil rights division. I personally was ordered to change performance evaluations of several attorneys under my supervision. I was told to include critical comments about those whose recommendations ran counter to the political will of the administration and to improve evaluations of those who were politically favored.

Morale plummeted, resulting in an alarming exodus of career attorneys. In the last two years, 55% to 60% of attorneys in the voting section have transferred to other departments or left the Justice Department entirely.

This is about more than the firing of eight political appointees. It’s insight into how deep the corruption goes with this administration. For example, what about using the General Services Administation to help Republicans win elections?

Here’s a clip from this morning’s House government reform committee hearing, investigating General Services Administration Chief Lurita Doan.

In this clip, Rep. Bruce Braley (D-IA) grills her on a PowerPoint presentation (pdf) given by Karl Rove’s deputy Scott Jennings to GSA personnel in January. The slides (13 pages) detailed which seats were “House Targets” and which “Senate Targets”, which states were “Republican Offense,” and which “Republican Defense.” After the presentation, Doan reportedly asked other employees how the agency could help “our candidates.” The GSA, remember, is the government’s procurement agency, in charge of almost $60 billion each year. All of this seems like a clear violation of the Hatch Act, which prohibits using federal resources to aid political parties.

It’s the Bush mantra: forget policy experts and scientists, and leave the career employees out of the discussion. Do everything with an eye for how it will help your party politically.

Related Articles